Lily pads on a pond


More than 900,000 specimens

Botany, also known as plant biology, is the study of plant life. Preserved plant specimens and associated data make up an herbarium collection (herbarium is also a term for the place used to store the collection).

The Bell Museum is home to a sizeable plant collection—plant specimens number over 700,000 with samples of vegetative parts, cones, fruit, and seeds. The representation of Minnesota’s flora is unparalleled, with over 160,000 specimens collected throughout Minnesota’s history by Etlar Nielson, Olga Lakela, John W. Moore, Welby Smith, and many others. The record of historic flora of the Upper Midwest (including the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and southwestern Ontario) is among the best in the United States

The distribution of specimens (approximately 900,000 total) is worldwide, though the majority are from the northern hemisphere.
Vascular plants approximately 600,000
Bryophytes approximately 50,000
Algae approximately 13,000
Lichens approximately 140,000
Fungi approximately 90,000

There is an excellent collection of circumboreal and arctic flora due to past research interests of E. C. Abbe, W. S. Cooper, D. Lawrence, and their students. Additionally there is a collection of historic Pacific Island flora, through the efforts of J. Tilden, A. A. Heller, and J. W. Moore, and a collection of early Amazonian flora by H. H. Rusby and R. Squires as part of the early exploration (1895-1896) of the Orinoco River delta by the Orinoco Company Ltd. (of Minnesota). J. W. Congdon’s collection (over 9,000 specimens) of early California plants (including Yosemite National Park) and approximately 7,000 species of early western U.S. and tropical Asia flora acquired through J. H. Sandberg’s exchanges are other significant collections.

Our herbarium collections continue to expand each year with new specimens, particularly from the Minnesota Biological Survey (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) and a tropical rain forest research program in Papua New Guinea coordinated by George Weiblen and colleagues.

Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas

The Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas is a searchable, public map showing where Bell Museum animal, plant, and fungal specimens have been found and collected. The atlas focuses on Minnesota, the meeting place of three of the world’s largest terrestrial ecosystems: eastern broadleaf forests, tallgrass prairies, and coniferous forests. It also represents moments in history before key changes occurred to the landscape, environment, and climate.

What’s most exciting, scientists will use the data in the Atlas to forecast where ecosystems and their associated species may be found in the future.

Learn more

Collection Staff

George Weiblen
Bell Museum Science Director, Curator of Plants and Professor

Peter Kennedy
Interim Curator of Fungi

Katie Noren
Museum Assistant

Tim Whitfeld
Herbarium Collections Manager

Ya Yang
Curator of Plants